It is, I would suppose stupidly, one of the last things you would ever imagine: Burying a child. In this case, Madeleine Anne Mitchell, as I read from her death notice just received in the mail from Arizona, was very much more than a child. But she was mine, though I hardly gave her the attention I should have. More than remiss, I am. Stupid. Insensitive, for such an allegedly bright woman. So caught up in what might happen to Robert, who came second, and, as my mother, the fierce Helen Schwamm said, "Anyone could have a girl."
Madeleine just died at fifty, under circumstances that might be characterized as mysterious, though the officers in charge of the investigation were satisfied that there was nothing untoward about her death, if death can be characterized as toward. She was, I think, a good girl, but as her body was not found for many days, it had begun to smell, and that's what brought the police. A terrible story. Not one I would have written, even on my worst day.
Even now, I am having difficulty getting the words out, putting them down or clinking them out on my computer, what I use now to express myself, other than shrieking in the night. I am no longer sure who this person is, having myself become ill for what I think is the first time in my adult life, other than the stuff you go through without becoming alarmed or scared. Or, in this case, inert. Stupid.
I am so sad for Madeleine, though as a friend pointed out, she is free from pain. I have been sifting through the works of Kay Boyle, a great writer who championed me when I was going through the horror of Doubleday's lawsuit against me, and I still didn't appreciate her enough to have read her except for snippets. As it turns out, I am not as nice as I should have been, especially considering all the great people who stood up for me in my lifetime, when I should have become more than I did. Silas, my remarkable grandson, has already done more for others at thirteen, than I have really done at my very (how is it possible?) advanced age.
So Madeleine is very gone. I have just put the death notices, come from Arizona, into the chute as I have to ready this apartment for my permanent departure, which I believe and hope will be soon, as there's no point my being here. New York is an old fantasy, one from my twenties, when all of life seemed to lay ahead of me, and I had a play on Broadway, even failed. Driven back to the hospital opening night(I had just given birth) by Mel Brooks and his beautiful wife, Anne Bancroft, who I considered my closest friend, certainly the most gifted one, for whom I had written the play but she had another commitment, only to have gotten to the theatre there in time for the closing curtain and the last laugh, which wasn't there. "Well you had two things happen this week," Mel said in the taxi back to the hospital, "If one of them had to be less than perfect, it should have been your daughter." He was always funny, but the laughter was pained. Now it is, funnily but grotesquely, fifty years later, and she is gone.
I threw the notices away. I don't think I need to be reminded that she is gone. The roof across from my little, ugly, ungraceful step-onto it and don't fall off it terrace, is bleak and joyless like the day. I can no longer think of living here. That is to say, I can think of it, but the thought saddens me. It's time to go back to California.